Whale Branch High School center offers 'REAL' learning

April 10, 2011 

Instructional Technology Specialist Lynn Walker watches as Whale Branch High School student Danielle King works at the creativity station in the school's new technology center during at the grand opening Friday morning. The Whale Branch classroom the first of its kind in the United States and modeled after similar centers in England and Australia. It is funded by a $100,000 grant from the global company RM Education and supplemented with additional money from LEGO Education, Dell and Polyvision.

JONATHAN DYER/THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

Six-foot-long work tables that double as computer screens.

Microscopes that photograph minuscule specimens.

A recording studio with video-editing equipment.

An educational video game that lets students move their feet on a mat to select the correct answer to multiple-choice questions.

The technology is part of $140,000 worth of equipment in Whale Branch Early College High School's new RM "Reimagining Education And Learning" classroom, the first of its kind in the United States and the third to open worldwide.

The other two REAL centers are in England and Australia.

"Everything looks awesome," said Whale Branch High freshman Michael Dantzler while demonstrating audio-recording and podcast equipment. "It's so alive in here."

"I like being around the technology," freshman Peniel Chavez added. "It makes you feel smart."

A $100,000 donation from the global company RM Education created the high-tech center, designed to enhance science, technology, engineering and math education.

The RM donation was supplemented with additional donations from Dell, LEGO Education and PolyVision, which manufactures interactive whiteboard systems, said county schools superintendent Valerie Truesdale.

Whale Branch students, dressed in "REAL Champion" T-shirts, demonstrated the technology for visitors Friday during a grand opening event. Principals from several Beaufort County schools came to check out the equipment, and teachers across the county will be able to take their classes on field trips to the center.

Truesdale's relationship with RM Education brought the center to Beaufort County. She is among a few educators on an advisory board for the company, which develops educational tools, technology and services used by school districts around the world.

Kevin Pawsey, CEO of RM Education, traveled to Whale Branch High for the opening and praised Truesdale's efforts to use technology in schools.

"We share very similar visions on how technology should be integrated in education," he said.

Truesdale said the company's donation did not require the district to purchase equipment. The school will open its doors to educators across the nation who want to see RM products in use.

Pawsey said the center also will serve as a testing ground for the company, a place where teachers and students can use RM technology and give feedback as the company grows.

Whale Branch social studies teacher Hugh Hood envisions students using the green screen in the media room to tape mock interviews in front of an image of the White House or to create music videos for songs they write about historic events.

"Our kids, they want to move around," Hood said. "They don't want to sit in rows and be talked to. There is so much to do here, so many ways to use everything. They can't get bored with it."

Stedmon James watched a group of fellow students competing to answer questions about parts of the human body through an interactive video quiz modeled on the video game "Dance Dance Revolution."

He said playing the game beats listening to a lecture.

"The more fun it is, the more I'm going to be attracted to learning," he said.

And the more focused, too, student LaDiamond Coleman said.

There's no time to daydream or doodle when trying to beat your high score.

"With this, you're engaged," LaDiamond said. "You're moving your whole body."

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